Charter, Comcast see dip in home Internet subscribers

(Photo by Brett Sayles via Pexels)

The biggest providers of home Internet service in the United States reported a rare dip in subscribers as federal broadband subsidies offered at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic begin to expire.

Last Friday, Charter Communications said it lost 42,000 more residential broadband subscribers than it gained at its Spectrum subsidiary to end its most-recent financial quarter with just over 28.2 million residential Internet customers.

Earlier in the week, Comcast said it lost 10,000 more customers than it gained for its Xfinity-branded home Internet service to end its financial quarter with around 29.8 millio residential broadband customers.

Some of these losses were partially offset by a rise in business customers at both companies, particularly among small- and medium-sized companies. But the trend could suggest a peak among its home Internet customers and a drying up of the market for future sign-ons.

Both Comcast and Charter are hoping additional broadband subsidizes like the recently-expanded Affordable Connectivity Program could spur interest in low-cost broadband packages. Both have also started offering deals to customers who are willing to bundle services like wireless phone and streaming.

In several markets, Comcast is offering a triple-play bundle that collates its home Internet service with its X1-powered Flex box and Verizon-powered Xfinity Mobile wireless phone service for around $80 a month. The package is considered an especially good deal, since Comcast also throws in its next-generation wireless gateway and removes its 1.2 TB data cap, which could prove attractive to data-hungry households.

Its wireless service, in particular, has unlocked added value for Comcast: As of July 25, the company had 2.8 million wireless subscribers, helping the company earn $505 million in revenue from that one service alone, according to the website Fierce Wireless.

Comcast was beaten to the wireless market by Charter, which has offered mobile phone service under its Spectrum Mobile brand for several years (like Comcast, Charter uses Verizon’s network for its mobile phone service). As of July, Charter said it operated 4.8 million phone lines for residential and business customers through Spectrum Mobile, though the specific number of customers served was unknown (some customers are believed to have more than one line).

Charter is experimenting with offering bundles to its residential and business customers that reduce monthly fees based on the number of features and services on a customer’s bill. Charter offers Spectrum Mobile for $30 a month with unlimited wireless data, though customers must bundle home or business Internet to take advantage of the perk.